Side Views

A week’s a long time — Karim Raslan

JAN 6 — The new year was ushered in with a pretty successful street party the length of Jakarta’s principal artery, Jalan Sudirman, under the auspices of the egalitarian and folksy Governor Joko Widodo. Unprecedented in its scale and ambition, more than 200,000 revellers celebrated the New Year in much the same way as party-goers would in London’s Piccadilly Circus or New York’s Times Square — proof if anyone needed it, that Indonesia is becoming ever more normal.

At the same time, the New Year also signals that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term is drawing to an end. Still, there’s no denying that the dignified, if circumspect former general has achieved a tremendous amount since his inauguration back in 2004. With his calm manner and inherently rational demeanor, Yudhoyono has brought Indonesia back from the verge of chaos and disorder (certainly street parties in downtown Jakarta are a testament to his success).

However, his phlegmatic and at times melancholic manner has prevented him from extending many of those gains, as many challenges — both economic and political — remain unresolved. Still, we must never forget that he steadied Indonesia at a very critical juncture.

The failure to transform his nation means that many will be counting the months to the legislative and presidential polls in 2014 with a degree of anticipation and mounting expectation, recognizing that the chances of a dramatic breakthrough on oil subsidies, infrastructure and land acquisition, have drifted away.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that a leader is very much dependant on his team and in this respect, Yudhoyono’s inner circle has been under intense pressure. For starters, with the resignation of Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Andi Mallarangeng, the president has lost a key aide who was popular with many (including myself) in the media.

While Andi’s travails with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) are well known, the latest tragedy — a car crash in Jakarta in the early hours of New Years’ Day, leading to two deaths — will continue to unfold over the next few days and will have a significant impact on the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa, another critical member of the president’s inner circle.

We should spare a thought for Pak Hatta, another extremely professional, hands-on, problem-solving politician, who has been through a roller coaster ride throughout the past week or so, proving the truth of the maxim: “a week is a long time in politics.”

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, his daughter Siti Ruby Aliya Rajasa (the wife of Democratic Party Secretary-General Edhie

Baskoro Yudhoyono) gave birth to the second of the president’s grandchildren, an event that was subsequently beamed across the nation with a photo of the two families alongside the young couple and the latest addition to the emerging dynasty, Airlangga Satriadhi Yudhoyono.

While parents cannot be expected to be responsible for everything their children do, Pak Hatta’s attention is bound to be divided. Furthermore, as the head of the family and a very public figure, he will need all his wisdom and experience to navigate his son Rasyid Amrullah’s case through the legal system.

In an Indonesia where many feel the elite are above justice, he will have to ensure fairness both for the victims and his young son, all this while trying to manage the economic squalls facing the country.

Politics is about people: leaders who can engage, persuade and transform their respective societies. In the case of Yudhoyono and his team, it may well be the case that they have accomplished as much can be hoped. Anchoring Indonesia in a democratic and open system, unleashing the energies of the provinces and districts has been their achievement.

Could it be that we’ll have to wait for a more energetic and younger man or woman to take Indonesia further — building on Yudhoyono’s legacy? Could the former mayor of Solo be that man? — The Jakarta Globe

* Karim Raslan is a columnist who divides his time between Indonesia and Malaysia.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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